West End Development Success Reflects Changing Times

Sometimes ideas don’t play out exactly as planned. When ambitious plans were unveiled more than a decade ago for The Shops at West End in St. Louis Park, it was with hopes that the $400 million mixed-use project would enjoy certain success. The first phase was to be a first-class retail center, followed by apartments, offices, restaurants and hotels.

In 2008, those early hopes were dashed by the looming recession. The initial shopping center has not been a major success. Even today, more than one quarter of the space remains vacant. Other developments planned were subsequently scrapped by Duke Realty Corp., the original developer, a firm that altered its strategy and pulled away from the project in 2011.

But the story didn’t end there. Today, exciting new chapters are being written. Even though the past decade changed the face of planned development, the original plan served as a catalyst for area-wide change. And, who knows, the result may be better than what was originally envisioned.

The Face of Change

Since 2013, nearly 800 apartments have been built at the St. Louis Park site, and a final multi-family project will break ground this winter. There are now hotel rooms and offices on the 49-acre site, and more are on the way. Some existing office buildings in the area have been refurbished to attract new tenants, and new construction is planned. The six-building Parkdales office complex was redone by The Excelsior Group and reopened as West End Office Park. It is 87 percent occupied today.

The Excelsior Group was one of the first to recognize the area’s potential. They broke ground on a multi-family apartment project in 2012 on a piece of land purchased in 2010 at “a depressed price.” According to CEO Chris Culp, the 119-unit Flats at West End was 85 percent leased prior to completion. He credits millennials for the area’s growth and popularity, noting that over the past six years, the building has averaged 95 percent occupancy, and rents have increased as well.

Excelsior is now partnering with Ryan Cos. to develop an 11-story office tower with more than 340,000 square feet of space. Ground was broken on the project, the first of two buildings planned along Highway 100. The two buildings, when complete, should offer approximately 700,000 square feet of new space in a unique business setting that is deemed an “18-hour” location, surrounded by apartments, retail, restaurants and entertainment space.

The original Duke development was planned to have a heavier office concentration, with more than one million square feet of business space in four towers. The market has changed since the area was first envisioned by Duke Realty Corp. Originally viewed as a retail and business center, the intervening years have skewed the mix more toward apartments, and the daytime office presence will be smaller. There is still ample room for retail, restaurant and entertainment development. And that is viewed as the future of the West End.

Keeping Pace with the Market

The direction is determined by market conditions. Both developers and real estate brokers believe the mix of residents and workers will bring new vibrancy to the area, and that the West End will continue to grow in price, popularity and value.

The area, according to a recent article in the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal, will soon reach $348 million in development since 2010.

Completed projects at the St. Louis Park site include:

  • The Flats at West End: 119 apartments
  • Millennium at West End: 158 apartments
  • AC Hotel Minneapolis West End: 126-room hotel
  • Phase 1, Central Park West Apartments: 199 units
  • Talo Apartments: 303 apartment units

The following projects are currently under construction:

  • 10 West End (Phase 1): A 343,000-square-foot office building
  • 2 Central Park West (Phase 2): 164-unit apartment complex
  • Global Pointe Senior Community: 98 senior units
  • Elan West End: An apartment community with 207 units

Pat Mascia, who headed Duke’s early retail development operations, notes that succeeding development would not have been possible, or would have been very different, without The Shops. Mascia, an attorney, now leads Briggs and Morgan’s real estate division. He says the retail and entertainment focus is what will spur future growth and development in the area. As tenants move into the apartments, and workers fill the new offices, there will be a greater need for retail, shopping and entertainment. Growth and development may not be exactly as planned a decade ago, but it seems to be perfectly aligned with today’s needs. And it seems obvious the time has come for success at West End.

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